Sunday, 18 December 2011

Kendrick Lamar - Section.80

I really felt like elaborating a little more than my summary I wrote for my top 50 favorite albums list, mostly because I've had this album in my head for quite a while and I felt like more needed to be said.

Hip-hop always had a place in my heart. It was the first genre of music I was really into (granted it was mostly ganster rap). After some time, I had grown tired of the genre thinking it was just a teenage phase and moved on to mainstream rock (because that's not a teenage phase, am I right guys?) Anyway, years went by and my musical taste slowly grew more and more open. Eventually, I stumbled back to listening to hip-hop, mostly the underground kind, and rediscovered how much I loved the genre. It can be about so many things: poetry, social commentary, political commentary, a rant, pretty much anything. Right now, the mainstream rap scene comprises mostly of songs about parties, money, women and the like. It makes me want to cut myself and die. Luckily this album makes me believe in rap.

Kendrick Lamar is a 24 year-old rapper hailing from Compton and guess what? He doesn't rap about thug lyfe! Hooray. In fact he is quite the opposite. He mostly makes songs about social and politcal commentary and he isn't afraid of taboo subjects (pretty obvious when the first track is called Fuck Your Ethnicity). He talks about race, religion, prostitution, and government, among other things. It also has some very interesting stories in there as well, like on No Make-Up and Keisha's Song (Her Pain). That leads me to his voice.

His voice is a little nasally, so some people might not like it as much, but it doesn't bother me at all. On a technical level, his flow feels really nice and he can rap fairly quickly (I like that sort of stuff). Stylistically, I love the way he raps. He gets emotionally wrapped up while rapping (especially on Keisha's Song) and it makes everything seem more personal to him and that he's actually rapping about something that he holds dear and near to him. When he raps fast, he consistently changes up his style which is something that I also enjoy. The way he plays off the female vocalist on No Make-up is really a joy to listen to. There's also a track (Ab-Soul's Outro) with a beautiful spoken word rant which is an incredible window into his psyche. It probably has some of the best lines on the entire album. Kendrick plays off really well with Ab-Soul on this track. The track itself sounds like something you might see in a movie, where there's some hipster spoken word poetry accompanied by bongo drumming in some little hipster coffee shop. Another thing worth mentioning is the guest rappers. They all do a pretty good job, but never overshadow Kendrick, which is good.

The beats are another thing to take notice from this debut album. There are a ton of producers collaborating on this album and I'm still amazed at how consistently good they all are. Of course, a wide array of producers mean a nice variety of beats. Some have a more electronic sounds and effects while others are a lot softer and more jazz-influenced. Tammy's Song has these neat bleep bloop sounds. HiiiPower, which has my favorite beat of the year, was produced by J. Cole and is just so good with it's really soft electronic sounds. Ab-Soul's Outro's beat is pretty much a straight-up jazz song. If it was an instrumental track, that's what I would assume it was, at least. It even has a minute-long saxophone solo at the end.

Of course I do have a few qualms with this album. My biggest one is the couple of weak hooks here and there; not exactly the catchiest. The hook on A.D.H.D. is actually a little irritating to listen to. I also thought that this album starts out a little slow. The first three tracks felt weak in comparison to the rest. Really, that's all I have to complain about. This is easily one of my favorite albums of the year and even of all time, mostly because of the amount of passion that went into this. Kendrick definitely left me with a really good impression of him, definitely top-tier work. I really can't wait for his sophomore album Good Kid in a Mad City coming up sometime in 2012. Thinking about it makes me giddy.


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